Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said he is optimistic the Supreme Court will rule on the concurrence of the Senate in the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States.
“We’re optimistic that the Supreme Court will agree with the Senate that we must be asked to concur in case of abrogation also,” said Sotto in the weekly IN FOCUS news forum in Quezon City.
Sotto said he is optimistic because the senators’ petition “involves less controversy.”
“We are not naming the ICC (International Criminal Court), we are not naming the VFA,” said Sotto.
“We are merely saying the Senate must concur also in any abrogation because we were asked to ratify. The power to ratify was with the Senate,” said Sotto.
He emphasized that majority of the senators are opposed to the termination of the VFA.
While he was not sure of the number, Sotto however stressed majority of the members of the Senate are not in favor of the abrogation.
Because of this, he said it would much be better if there is a stand that the Senate needs to concur “because we can review it.”
If the SC rules in favor of the Senate, Sotto said it does not necessarily mean that they will automatically deny or not concur with the President, or it does not automatically mean also that they will agree with the President.
“But what we can do is call for a review, call for a review of the VFA and at the same time the possibility of asking of the review of the MTD (Mutual Defense Treaty),” also said the Senate leader.
He related that other issues such as a retaliatory clause will be addressed by a Senate probe.
The Philippines has notified the US of its intention to terminate the 1999 agreement, which governs the conduct of US personnel holding military exercises here.
Duterte has threatened an end to the VFA after the US canceled the visa of Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, his ally and former police chief who used to lead his “war on drugs.”
On Thursday, Senator Panfilo Lacson announced that senators are planning to appear before the High Court and file their petition to enlighten the senators on their role in the cancellation of a treaty since the law is silent on this issue.
Section 21, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution says treaties or international agreements are valid and effective when concurred in by at least two-thirds of the Senate.
Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on National Defense, believes the abrogation of the VFA was already finished since the President had already signed it. “We are just counting days until August 9 for its formal termination.”
However, the senator pointed out that it would be different if the Supreme Court will rule on the need of 2/3 votes concurrence of the senators once the Senate petition goes to the Court.
“So the landscape will be different. It means that it is not yet final– the termination made by the President. Second, if a new negotiation or treaty will be drafted, it has nothing to do with the original VFA signed lat year,” said Lacson.
“And in the event that the US agrees to the draft prepared by the Philippines, I’m sure our position will be enhanced and the results would be better,” he added./Stacy Ang